To stay true to my procrastinator lifestyle, I will make no comment on the fact that it has been 4 months since my last blog. Mooooving right along...
So many ideas jotted down in my apple notebook (nudge nudge A.Z!) and so little time to blog about all of them.. or perhaps better to say - SO much time that it is stifling. Supply teaching = my day ends at 3:30, one of the only luxuries of relief work. I joke, it's THE ONLY luxury of relief work. I work well under pressure as we know.
Today's topic (brace yourselves): religion. I know, cringe right? It's actually quite the big issue being mulled about in my brain right now for so many different reasons. I have a note jotted in my book dating all the way back to March that says, "schools teach morality?" At the time, I had been having these huge late night discussions with my housemates about religious vs. non-denominational schools. We come from a variety of backgrounds, and one of the topics that always comes up in such discussions is - how can we teach morality without religion? Or, can we be "good" without God? I love a good alliteration any day and this one is particularly poignant because as I grew up in a Catholic school I am obliged to say.. well, not 'no' but.. no. One of my housemates went through the public school system and her parents didn't really practice any particular religion. "So, do you think I'm bad?" she challenged us. "Has my upbringing lacked the pious teachings of moral judgement? Do I spit on homeless people and kick dogs?" A bit extreme, but her point was made.
Later that week I sat in on a school assembly (note: schools here have assembly everyday for about 30 minutes. They are either put on by each class showing what they have learned or they are for the school to discuss any major issues as a community) during which I was daydreaming about how and when we develop our notions of 'good' and 'bad'. In one of my religious studies classes in uni I read an article about this issue that said something along the lines of, "do we really want to believe that we are only 'good' because we are afraid a big giant bearded man in the sky might do something to us? Or, because when we die we want to go to heaven?" We've painted a fairly bleak picture of the human race with that one. Not much of a chance we've got, seeing as how we can't even agree on a religion to follow!
However, I always come back to my experience growing up in the Catholic church, think about it this way - once a week we gathered as a community (tick) discussed the things we 'should' be doing, such as charity and being kind (tick, tick) were reminded not to be angry, selfish, greedy (tick, tick, tick) and were made to take some ownership of our mistakes (tick!). That's 7 for 7 folks, all good things but we're left with the problem of labelling it "religion" and having to choose a God to represent us... so while the Headteacher droned on about the school announcements, I began to dream of a moral utopia. A place in every community where the people gather and discuss things that are bothering them. Where they tell each other to be kind, look out for one another and be charitable to those in need. A place where everyone is reminded of their own inner value, told they are loved and important to the group. *Sigh* it would be lovely, and yet probably wouldn't be quite as effective unless we told them, oh ya and also if you don't come and do all these things the Flying Spaghetti Monster will ooze her noodley appendages all over you (google that one kids!)
Startled back into reality by a sudden outburst of applause from 400 children, I straighten up and try to pay attention to the assembly (what school am I at again? which kids are mine? I'm lucky I make it through the day sometimes..) Having simultaneously created and abandoned my microcosm utopian community in a matter of minutes, I give myself over to the kind voice of the teacher now leading the assembly. "...and as we all know boys and girls today is Friday which means it’s our Golden Rules Assembly!" - cue applause and random fidgeting of excitement - "let's read out our Golden Rules together (400 voices in unison): We are gentle, kind and helpful. We work hard and look after property and each other. We are always honest and listen to others. We do not hurt people, and we do not hurt people's feelings. We do not interrupt and we do not cover up the truth." Next the teacher highlights this week’s special rule - We are gentle, kind and helpful - and asks the students to remind her what this means. A small year 1 student at the front speaks directly into the microphone which muffles his voice as he says, "It means we love each other and help everyone in our school." The teacher beams at him, "Correct! Who can tell us about someone who they have seen being a golden example of this rule this week?" About 399 hands shoot in the air, give or take, and the teacher patiently tries to get to them all so they can say nice things other students have done for them this week. A behaviour problem child in my class even receives a special certificate for his hard work in the Nursery lunch hall the day before, and he is absolutely glowing as he walks back to his seat to the sound of his peer's approval and admiration.
I was absolutely buzzing as I walked my kids back to class that day. All I had time to jot in my notebook was - "schools teach morality?" but obviously the gravity of the situation stuck with me. Afterwards I thought it was almost too ridiculous to mention to anyone, of course schools teach morality that's not a big mystery. But the important point here is not just that schools tell us 'this is right and this is wrong'. What moved me in the assembly was that school is possibly the only place in the world where we are good to each other for the sake of being good. Where we are taught to respect property because we have to share it, and to do our best because it makes us feel good. We are rewarded for our kind acts and generosity not by an invisible man but by our fellow students who are also working hard to do their best and recognize the value in these achievements. School is a place where children come and try to work together, to help each other realize their full potential.. and all of this 5 days a week no less.
Homework tonight (because I wouldn't be a teacher otherwise): when you are good WHY do you do it? When you are tempted to do things that are technically 'bad', why do you feel bad doing them? If you really think about it, I bet the answer will surprise you... :)